Lions Announce Deal… With Their Backup Choice

The NFL draft is coming up, as ESPN has hammered into your skull a thousand times you might have heard, and all eyes have been focused on what Detroit will do with the first pick in the draft. They really only have their choice of about three players; select anyone outside of QB Matthew Stafford, LB Aaron Curry, or OT Jason Smith, someone they regard higher than those three, and they’ll be widely derided as “reaching.” This despite the fact that it’d be their only shot at getting that player short of a trade, and nobody’s willing to trade for the #1 spot in a draft lacking surefire stars like this. So it goes in a hive-mind society like the NFL scouts.

Aaron Curry Matthew Stafford

Luckily, Detroit has no such plans to stray from the big three, as according to MLIVE.COM, the team just announced this afternoon that they’ve got a deal in place with Curry, terms agreed to and everything, and they’re ready to get this guy signed before the draft begins. That way there’s no contract drama to worry about; he can just get into camp and go. Yep, they’re selecting Curry with the #1 pick … unless they sign Stafford first.

Wait, what?

According to a league source, the Detroit Lions have completed contract terms with Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry and the team is now waiting to see if it can reach an agreement with their No. 1 target, Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. The source said the Lions will not allow a decision to go beyond Friday and if a deal isn’t done with Stafford by then, the team will sign Curry and take him with the first overall draft pick.

This is a somewhat shrewd, somewhat stupid move by the Lions, depending on what your opinion of the Detroit front office is. Yes, that’s what we thought. For whatever reason, the Lions don’t really regard Curry as their top prospect; that honor apparently belongs to Stafford. This is despite two rather important facts:

  1. The Lions need somebody who will improve the team on Day 1, because the Lions are astonishingly bad at football;
  2. Aaron Curry has publicly stated that he’s willing to take less money to play in Detroit.

Now, a reasonably sane person might mention that anyone who’s willing to take a pay cut to be a Detroit Lion isn’t to be trusted, much less drafted, but let’s set that aside; perhaps Curry was a Barry Sanders fan as a child or something. We don’t know.

Curry, as a pick, makes more sense for the Lions over the short- to medium-term future, which just so happens to be the typical length of a rookie contract. Meanwhile, Stafford is a moderately successful college quarterback with a strong arm. That’s all fine and good, but I seem to recall having this same discussion about, off the top of my head, Joey Harrington, David Carr, Ryan Leaf, Eli Manning, Cade McNown, and Rex Grossman. There’s some success there, but the odds are pretty poor, especially when you start tossing those guys headlong into a situation where there’s no time to learn and no line to protect them; Harrington can tell you all about how that works up in Detroit.

But if Stafford is seriously who the Lions think gives them the best chance to win right away, whether they like his ability or don’t believe in Curry as a difference-maker, then this gambit isn’t terrible. Being that Curry pushed his own price down, the Detroit front office is - in theory - in position to try to depress Stafford’s price; with no ultimatum, Stafford would probably just get normal #1 money, and Detroit’s out a few million in guaranteed money that they may not think the QB’s worth.

If nothing else, Detroit has just taken contract negotiations public, and if the report from above is accurate, it hasn’t brought Stafford’s agent and the team any closer to a deal. That means bickering through the media, and that’s where the good theater always happens. Stay tuned.